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Ticket Sales

Oakland A’s Focus on Group Sales Paying Dividends

The A’s have been in the news recently for their ticketing initiatives, but behind the scenes, their renewed focus on group sales has helped spur momentum.

Adam White

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For the past month, the Oakland A’s have been one of the hottest teams on the field. Off it, their group sales team might be just as scorching.

Led by Josh Feinberg, director of group sales for the club, the team has been able to pull off initiatives that range from a Greek Heritage Night to a multi-game educational series that featured a Science of Baseball Day and a Career Education Day.

Ashwin Puri, the A’s vice president of sales and strategy, noted that a shift in organizational strategy that led to more of a focus on group sales has proved to be fruitful.

“We saw a lot of value he (Feinberg) could provide the organization. So, we brought him back after two stints in the NBA and we hired a staff of dedicated group sales folks, which we never had before.”

The reason behind the move? Good business.

“We thought this was an opportunity to help us grow our business and help engage the community in ways that were creative and approachable,” said Puri when discussing the impact Feinberg and his team have made.

To make sure they were firing on all cylinders, Puri and the other A’s executives made sure that the group sales team felt empowered to come up with unique ideas within the categories of consumers most impacted by fans.

“The top six categories in sports for group sales, and these are really general, are corporations, nonprofit groups, school, religious groups, performance groups and youth sports,” Puri said. “We have empowered them to work with all the different departments internally to come up with various programs that would cater to different audiences with schools and education being one of them and a huge opportunity for us.”

Their most successful days surrounding schools and education was the two aforementioned days that featured science and careers. Across both days, the A’s saw more than 6,000 attendees and a whole lot of value according to Puri.

“The Science of Baseball Day was aimed towards a younger demographic. Together with Science of Sport, we held a demonstration to show how science is used in the game of baseball, and after that, there was a science fair at the ballpark before the game. It was a full day of activities. The career day was similar, but it was mostly geared toward an older demo of middle and high schoolers. There were a couple different speaker panels from the front office talking about their career path in sports and then there was a college fair following that before the game. So both were full days worth of activities and we thought provided a lot of value to each segment.”

While fun for the students, these initiatives serve as a conduit for the larger overall strategy for the A’s when it comes to bringing value to the community.

“Connecting with local schools is super important for us as group sales opportunity for two reasons,” Puri said. “One, group sales is a great way to fill up the stands, but also a big part of our community relations efforts are reaching out to youth in the area and connecting with them.”

Another aspect that Puri lauded was how collaborative the ticket sales team is with the marketing team and vice versa.

“It (the A’s record-breaking 56,000-plus attendance night) started with a really strong group sales effort. We coupled that with a really strong digital advertising campaign. It takes a lot of factors to kind of come together to make them have a weekend that successful. We have an awesome marketing team.”

“We collaborate in the form of determining what are the most important campaigns we want to run, what games and homestands we need support from them and they have a number of tactics that they employ to support that. I’m just thrilled with the level of collaboration support they give us on a daily basis.”

Just like on the field, success is a team effort.

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

Ticket Sales

How Teams Are Using Technology to Increase Ticket Sales

Companies like the Aspire Group and Semcasting provide teams with in-depth information, which has helped organizations increase ticket sales.

Bailey Knecht

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Beyond wins and losses, sports organizations have lofty goals, particularly when it comes to ticket sales. Teams are constantly working to build a loyal fan base and increase attendance, so to address this challenge, many have begun outsourcing to tech companies that help them expand their reach.

One of those teams is the Dallas Mavericks, who work with Semcasting, a data-as-a-service company that creates predictive models for potential customers.

“We are a compiler of databases,” explained Geetha Neelakantiah, vice president of business development and partnerships for Semcasting. “Some is public information we’re pulling in, some is survey information, some is a variety of governmental agencies that make the data public. What we do is we add our smarts because we have the tools to create inferences based on income and other data elements.”

Those inferences help develop a 360-degree view of the customers to analyze the best way to market to them.

Semcasting builds profiles by taking into consideration fans’ income, home values, interests and distance to the arena. The company also addresses Customer Trade Areas using Mobile Footprints, by mapping smartphone signals and identifying patterns and “hot spots” in the fan base.

SEE MORE: How Teams Can Use Social Video Franchises to Tell Unique Stories 

“Knowing who’s attending an event or game or retail location and finding them and identifying who they are, marketers are able to provide better programming to them so next time they come, it could be catered to those coming to the event so it’s more customized,” said Neelakantiah.

The Aspire Group is another organization that works with teams to optimize ticket sales and fan experience. According to Bill Fagan, chief operating officer for the Aspire Group, the main goal in ticket marketing is to retain fans.

“If we’re losing existing fans, ticket holders or donors or whoever, then we’re never going to grow,” Fagan said. “It’s very challenging to acquire new fans. Analytics indicate that if you’re not retaining at least 85 percent of your fans, you won’t get back to your previous year’s total.”

Finding and retaining fans is particularly important for teams that may be struggling to earn wins, Fagan said.

“Hope is not a strategy, and winning is not a strategy,” he said. “You can’t just hope that team is going to turn it around. You have to work twice as hard to retain people and make sure you don’t lose them. There’s nothing more important than taking care of the people that are attending.”

In order to preserve those existing fans, as well as identify potential new fans, the Aspire Group uses a variety of tactics, ranging from conducting surveys to utilizing data aggregation technologies.

That technology is what allows organizations to draw conclusions based on existing information.

“What marketers are attempting to find is lookalikes,” Fagan said. “They say, ‘Here’s what our average fan looks like in their demographic and behaviors. Let’s find other people that behave in similar ways.’”

“Knowing that information — how often a person purchased with their demographic — helps identify other individuals,” Neelakantiah added. “It does give us more information about how a sports team is able to develop different marketing programs and increase sales on different segments.”

LISTEN: Rob Perez’s Journey From Ticketing Entrepreneur to NBA Personality 

In order for the team to deliver customized advertising to specific audiences, organizations like Semcasting aim to access the “unknown fan” — someone who has attended a game or visited the team website, but isn’t a regular buyer — an ideal customer for the team to zero in on. Once data is used to nail down the demographics of the “unknown fans,” advertising can be specially targeted to fit their needs and hopefully turn them into regulars.

According to a testimonial from Veronica Cantu, director of sales marketing with the Mavericks, the partnership with Semcasting has been beneficial.

“Thanks to Semcasting, we now have a deeper understanding of our fan base and clearer solutions on how to customize and optimize our engagement with them,” she said. “When our fans buy single tickets, season tickets or simply visit our website, Semcasting has helped us discern who those unknown fans are and where they spend their time, both online and offline.”

With the help of Semcasting, the Mavericks saw a 380 percent return on investment, based on a $25.30 cost per acquisition.

Looking ahead, Semcasting hopes to tie it all together by identifying the most effective forms of marketing, using attribution to connect sales back to the relevant marketing channel.

In a broader sense, the next step for data analysis companies is making fan identification resources more universally affordable and available, particularly for smaller market organizations with less manpower, according to Fagan.

“The challenge for entertainment properties is getting the right ROI,” he said. “Unfortunately, the resources might not be available to invest in the technologies, so there is an increased demand for third party, technologically-based affordable solutions… That’s where we put our heads, which is servicing the entire world of live event ticketing and understanding that an empty seat is a cancer to the brand.”

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College Athletics

Inside the University of Minnesota’s Creative New Rewards Program

Mike Wierzbicki and Ben Fraser join us for another episode of Shot Callers as they break down their loyalty program and the success they have found with it.

Front Office Sports

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Ticket Sales

Elevate On Campus Looks to Become New Player in College Athletics

The new initiative from Elevate Sports Ventures looks to bring another option to college athletic departments across the country.

Adam White

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Elevate on Campus

In the college athletics world, IMG Learfield has been synonymous with dominance in the ticketing space for the better part of a decade.

Whether that is a good thing or not can be left up to you, but starting this fall, another group is looking for some playing time.

Enter Elevate on Campus.

Led by Mark Dyer, Founder and CEO of Taymar Ventures and former senior VP at IMG College, Elevate on Campus is looking to change the way ticket sales providers service and execute for their college athletic clients.

“It starts with the fact that we are going to introduce a new model of the relationship between us, the provider and the athletic departments at these universities. The traditional model in this business was that consultants were paid commission on certain sales, and it had the effect of restricting focus and the areas in which the business could operate; it put consultants in a certain corner. After almost a decade in the business, we are completely changing the model and the relationship, making it much more of a partnership and enabling us to get much better aligned with the objectives of the athletic department with any particular season or sport.”

As someone who spent the better part of 10 years helping build IMG’s ticketing solutions, Dyer took a year off to build what will now become Elevate on Campus.

Along with the rest of the leadership group at Elevate Sports Ventures, Dyer sees an opportunity to come in and help schools find more efficient ways to sell their tickets at a time when fewer people are willing to shell out the money required to come to games.

With attendance down year over year for 30 of the 40 Power Five teams that opened their season the first weekend of September, Dyer and Elevate on Campus want to help reverse that trend.

“College football has probably never been more popular on TV.  The TV product generates tremendous ratings, interest, and attendance. However, attendance is a growing issue in the sports business overall and college basketball and football are not immune to that trend.  We estimate that 1.5 million seats go unsold in the college football season each weekend. There is room for a new approach to this market, to help the schools sell more seats and get more people on campus enjoying their approach.”

SEE MORE: Oakland A’s Focus on Group Sales Paying Dividends

What does this new approach look like? Being able to package everything that professional sports teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Sixers are using into an offering that is suitable and impactful for a college athletic department.

“The contribution that HBSE is going to be able to make for our client schools is far beyond anything that’s been offered before in the college space,” said Dyer. “When you think about  pricing, analytics and recruiting sales managers and staff, the latest and greatest in technology, this is a resource package that we will bring to bear in the college market with this new start-up.”

Dyer has already set a benchmark of being in business with 15 schools by the end of 2019, and with the University of Kentucky becoming the first school to sign on, they are already one step closer to that goal.

Like any business, Dyer is expecting bumps in the road, but he is leaning on the mission of the organization to guide them.

“We have a simple mission: to be the best provider in the space, as far as how many schools we have as clients – and the impact that we deliver for those clients. That’s the simple mission.”

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